Across the Mediterranean

Day 2 – Saturday 30th July – More ferry and Civitavecchia to Terni (113km)

Grimaldi Ferries could be considered the Ryanair of the Mediterranean – the cheapest way to get yourself and your vehicle to your holiday destination from Barcelona, and it shows. You get what you pay for, and the advantage of this is that if what you want to pay for are your holidays on the Balkans and not a cabin on a cruise across the Med, you can board with a deck ticket and just find a quiet spot to lay down your camping matress to spend the night and no one will look at you twice. Everybody does it. So we found ourselves a “luxury” corner (one with a power outlet) and settled down for the night.

20160730113443The following day was a lot quieter than first impressions had led me to expect, and time was mostly spent writing this blog, playing cards and reading between the top deck and a small deserted shaded side deck two levels down with a nice sea breeze. The journey felt a lot shorter than it really was, and despite the initial two-hour delay, we were in Civitavecchia at about 19:30.

20160730132754We had a bit over 100km to get to Terni, a town more or less halfway across Italy where we were going to spend the night, and Italy welcomed us with a great country road gently sweeping across fields and low hills with the sun glowing red as it set in the background.

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Balkan Adventure 2016

Day 1 – Friday 29th July – Ferry from Barcelona to Civitavecchia (0km)

I had had the new bike for more than three months; it had dutifully fulfilled its role as my daily transport to and from work and had had its occasional outing at the weekend, but day after day I had been feeling that it needed, longed for a proper trip, the beast wanted to be unleashed away from the city. So when the holiday have finally came, it was time to take it on its first long trip. Where? The Balkans.

The plan was to take a ferry to Italy, cross the country, take another ferry and start from Croatia, then ride south to Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece and back to Italy via another ferry.

20160730132925I started my holidays at the very end of July. This had an instant impact on the beginning of my holidays in two notable ways.

One, I got a reminder of how hot and damp the city is this time of year as I dragged about 40kg of luggage from my flat to the garage where the bike sleeps, one piece at a time. After a lot of sweating, pulling straps and tying knots, the game of Tetris was complete and the bike loaded.

Second, I got a taste of the joys of starting my holiday at the same time as millions of other people in the shape of a neverending queue at the ferry terminal.

IMG-20160729-WA0019Once on board, the ferry was choke full of loud people, screaming kids and dodgy-looking Eastern European truck driveres, one of whom tried to start a fight at the top deck bar. At least the two-hour delay before we set sail was made much more enjoyable by the company of an Argentinian couple who have been travelling around the world on their motorbike for over two years, and who had a lot of stories to share. You can find out more about them here and here.

Final touches to the AT

As I explained when I fitted the fuse box to the AT, I still had to install a few last things, most of which requiered routing wires from the handlebars and front part of the bike, under the fuel tank, and to the box under the seat. Space is tight, the fuel tank had to come out and I did not want to have to do it every time I was going to fit something, so I waited patiently until all parts had been delivered and got down to it with only a week to spare before the AT’s first big trip. I was going to fit:

  • Front fog lamps
  • Heated grips
  • 12V socket
  • Chain oiler system
  • Pre-wiring for rear fog lamp (I still have not received the Holan top case)

I needed the bike to go work, so I only had one afternoon to get everything done. In the days before I did all my homework, drawing the electrical schemes, cutting the wires, fitting the connector plugs, protecting them with heat shrink tubing, and generally pre fitting everything I could before the wiriing.

The chosen chain oiler was a PDoiler system, which is cheaper than a Scottoiler electronic system but still provides instant control of the amount of oil delivered to the chain. I was not convinced by the wicker system, though, so I replaced that with a Scottoiler dual injector.

DSC_0006I put the oil reservoir/pump combo on the right side of the subframe, behind the passenger footpeg. It does not stand out and it is the optimal position to route the wire to the fuse box and the oil tube to the swingarm and to the chain.

DSC_0017DSC_0075The dual injector is suposed to be mounted on the swingarm with zip ties or with special adhesive tape, but I went for a more elegant solution and bolted it to the chain guide under the swingarm, which is in the perfect position in the AT.

DSC_0008The injector is covered, so it is virtually invisible, and it is more securely mounted. This only requieres measuring the position, removing the chain guide and drilling a hole in it of the same diametre of the bolt included with the injector.

DSC_0011To fit the injector in the correct position you can then use the plastic spacers provided with it or a few washers for more precise adjustment.

DSC_0014I used the provided adhesive plastic clips to route the oil tube  and I fabricated a support to fit the the oiler control knob on the handlebars using the mounting that came with the 12V socket.

DSC_0019IMG_0290Then the day came. Right after lunch I started removing the fairings on the bike. The first time I did that I complained that it took too long, but as I learnt this second time, if you have the right tools and know what you are doing, you can remove everything reasonably fast. One thing I was worried about were the crash bars. I did not know whether it would be possible to remove the fairings with them on, as it was on the V-Strom.

It is not. At least with the Holan crash bars. The good news is that you don’t really need to remove them – if you loosen the bottom mounting point and remove the two bolts under the headlight, the whole assembly pivots forward and out of the way. I assume that with the PRO model four more bolts need to be removed from the radiatiors mounting points.

IMG_0285Removing the tank is also a fairly straightforward process – there is only one bolt to be undone (under the seat), even though you need to remove the seat lock assembly to access it, and you pull it up and back to detach it from the front mounting points, which are two rubber pegs. With the help of a friend who lifts the tank a bit, unplug the fuel line, two electrical connectors and the rubber tubes for the breathing and the overflow and you are done. It is much easier if the tank is empty or close to it, as it is much lighter.

I installed an aftermarket waterproof 12V socket which fit perfectly into the hole on the dashboard.

DSC_0076

The heated grips proved to be a bit trickier. It took some swearing and sweating to pull the OEM grips off the handlebars, and while the heated left one slid in without problems (I had to put a couple of drops of glue to stop it form rotating afterwards), the right one refused to slid more than halfway in. In the end we used a big screw clamp to push it in. They do not have a separate control unit, it is integrated in the left grip, like the Honda OEM ones. This looks great, but I found that I kept turning them on accidentally every time I used the indicators, so I had to rotate it down a bit to make sure the button is out of the way.

The oiler control unit went on the right handlebar and the fog lamp switches on the left one, in a position I can easily reach with my thumb. I mounted them on a PMR bar switch that replaces the clutch clamp. It looks great, but the bolts did not align exactly with the holes in the clamps, we had to file them off a bit.

IMG_0289After fitting the fog lamps to the crash bars – very easy on the Holan ones, as they include two mounting points – all that was left was route all the wires along existing ones, secure them with zip ties and plug all the connectors. I strongly recommend fitting a fuse box on this bike, as the battery is difficult to access and it simplifies electrical work considerably.

We checked that everything worked and we put the bike back together.

Other last minute additions before the big trip have been a pair of Heidenau K60 tires and two custom made bags for the Holan crash bars to carry a pair of spare tubes and the tools to change them.